CALAMBA, LAGUNA — James Laput is not soft.
From his match-ups with Ange Kouame and Bright Akhuetie in the UAAP, to his clashes with Marvin Hayes and Mon Mabayo in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3×3 President’s Cup powered by TM, many have been telling him to stand up for himself.
The 6-foot-9 beanpole of Big Boss Cement Green Gorillas-Porac has even found himself the new favorite of outspoken emcee Sudan Daniel. The latter has explained that all his ribbing is his way of toughening the Laput inside the ‘Calambubble’ hosted by INSPIRE Sports Academy here.
However, Laput has long stood up for himself.
In fact, he even stood up for himself when a freak accident almost paralyzed him from the head down.
In his time as a Green Archer, the Filipino-Australian disappointed — and he will be the first to acknowledge that. “The first round, in the eyes of the public, it was a slow start. They’re not wrong,” he shared, talking about his UAAP Season 82 Round 1 averages of 2.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in close to nine minutes of action.
“My games were just slowly, but surely getting better. However, a lot of things happened why I couldn’t play after the first round.”
Just when Laput felt he was picking up speed, lady luck turned her head with an ugly smile. “Mainly, it was because of a very bad injury,” he shared while shaking his head, pausing, and then finally continuing.
“It was very bad. It was an injury that was so bad. Can I disclose it? I feel it might be used against me, but people deserve to know the truth.”
To be clear, the interviewer did not know about the supposed “very bad injury”, and the interview was supposed to only delve into the 24-year-old’s transition to 3×3.
It was apparent, though, that Laput felt it was high time to finally confess his experiences, even though he had goosebumps just recalling it.
“It wasn’t anything about my performance. The reason why I didn’t play in the second round was that during training in between Round One and Round Two, I went up for a dunk during a fastbreak and I hung on the ring, but my feet swung forward and I lost grip,” he narrated, carefully choosing his words to describe just how much of a freak accident it was.
“When I fell onto the floor, I fell on my neck, on my spine. I blacked out for about 10 seconds and at that time, I had a seizure. I’m having goosebumps just thinking about it.”
Without a doubt, everybody and anybody who experienced that would feel shaken — even a year after and beyond.
Moreover, that scary fall shook not only him but all of La Salle as well. As he put it, “It was a really traumatic experience for myself and my teammates.”
Still, the Green Archers wasted no time and transported their big man from Enrique Razon Sports Complex in Taft Ave. to St. Luke’s Medical Center in BGC.
While the fall was scary, that half-hour drive scarier, especially since it turned out that the freak accident was actually life-threatening. “They told me that I’m extremely lucky because that injury, not only could it have ended my career, I could’ve been paralyzed from the head down for the rest of my life,” said Laput.
A year later, he remains grateful not only to still be playing basketball, but for still being in the thick of things in the game of life. “It’s truly a blessing from God. That was the reason I didn’t get much exposure in La Salle, but as you guys can tell, I’m on the way back,” he said.
“I’m happy to be playing so much basketball because there’s so much more I have to prove.”
Indeed, the one-and-done player in the UAAP has a golden opportunity to prove himself in the Philippines’ pioneering professional 3×3 league since Porac needs him to stand strong in that middle.
The good news is that he is ready for all that physicality — and there are no more goosebumps just thinking about it. “I think I’ve done pretty well with getting over that trauma. I know that I’m a big man so I gotta take a lot of hits,” he said.
“3×3’s great. The competition is great. I can play aggressively offensively and defensively, just the way I like it.”
And so, James Laput hopes Daniel keeps barking at him, opponents continue bumping him, and haters still bash him.
He can take it. He can stand up for himself.